FROM THE DISPOSABLE SOCIETY TO RECYCLING GENERATION
| 2013 Fall | story by HANK BOOTH | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |

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Driving into the parking lot in front of the Wal-Mart Recycling Center on a hot August afternoon, the thought struck me that “I’ve come a long way baby!”

My old Jeep was loaded with a whole bunch of stuff that, just a few years ago, would have been hauled away by the trash truck without another thought. Heck, I complained when they cut the pickup to just once a week. Our family was the trash-producing champion of the neighborhood. Now here I was sorting through plastic bottles, cans, plastic packaging and a bunch of well-read newspapers and magazines.

Actually, I was shamed into my new era of taking care of disposables by our grandkids who were shocked to discover that ‘Boppo’ was throwing away such junk without a care in the world. Now I’m visiting my new friends behind the drive-up windows for recycling on a regular basis. You know what? There are more of us New Generation, Boomer, retirement eligible Seniors out there than those other disposables producing age groups. The “little old ladies and gents” loading their recycle junk into carts to wheel to the windows, not to death in the trash dumps, but to a rebirth into who knows what form.

If you think about it, when we were kids growing up, we lived in the beginning of the disposable years. Get it off the shelf at the store, use it up, and throw anything left away. Our mealtimes were all about TV dinners, instant pudding and instant coffee. Frozen foods replaced fresh produce and the drive-in restaurant became family dinner a couple of nights a week.

Then up popped the microwave oven and it took just a couple of minutes to make an entire meal! It didn’t taste very good, but what the heck it didn’t taste good really fast. Every package, wrapper and cup was headed for the trash can. Clothing styles changed with the new “what’s hip” look each season and the old threads went to the back of the closet, ultimately to be discarded. The convenient disposable age was the new way of life.

And what about gas mileage? Who cared! Gas was $.25 a gallon, even less if there was a “Gas War” going on. Four hundred cubic inches of engine and zero to sixty in a few short seconds was what impressed the girls and that’s what mattered, even if you only earned a buck an hour. The bigger the car, the better for Mom and Dad. They had lived thru the gas rationing WW II years with many staples in short supply. Use it up and toss it out felt kind of good for a change.

Now the grand kids have introduced me to the new world order. Conserve, reuse and recycle has replaced buy it and who cares what happens to the leftovers, except at the dinner table, where we still heard there were starving children somewhere. That didn’t really matter when we were younger. The economy was going great guns, new businesses were springing up everywhere, television, central Heat and AC were coming for everybody. Who cares how much non-renewable energy we used up, there so much we never gave it a thought. How the times have changed.

I think about the crowds gathered at meetings I’ve attended discussing land use issues, alternative energy sources and production, public transportation, curb side recycling service. It’s the older crowd carrying much of the message of conservation and living in a cleaner environment. Don’t get me wrong, we in the Boomer Generation are learning much from our children and grandchildren, but we need to be directly involved in the future planning and most importantly carrying out the mission of conservation and recycling. Maybe in part it’s because we share the guilt for being youngsters taking part in the Disposable Era of American life. ■

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